Oklahoma has one of the lowest tax burdens in the country, according rankings distributed by two national research organizations. The findings of the National Conference of State Legislatures and the Tax Foundation were released in an analysis by the Oklahoma Senate staff today.
"The rankings are great for our economic development efforts because they send the signal that Oklahoma is one of the most business-friendly states in the country when it comes to low taxes. They also illustrate the folly of Governor Keating's election-year effort to cut taxes at the expense of our public schools," said Senator Cal Hobson, vice-chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
According to NCSL, Oklahoma ranked 42nd in per capita state and local tax burden and 37th in taxes as a percent of personal income. Using the more current data, the Tax Foundation, a conservative research group, ranked Oklahoma 45th in per capita taxes and 41st in taxes per $1,000 of personal income.
"I know the Governor's people have spent a lot of time trying to paint Oklahoma as a high or middle tax state to justify taking money away from education, but it's just not true. If anything, the latest studies underscore the need to devote more of our resources to the public schools, not less as Governor Keating proposes," said Senator Hobson.
An earlier Senate analysis showed that once they were fully implemented, Governor Keating's tax cuts would cost education almost $600 million every year. Oklahoma currently ranks 47th in education expenditures.
"Clearly, the facts show that Governor Keating's 'taxes first, education last' policy is a bad mistake, especially from an economic development standpoint. We're already low on taxes, especially business taxes, so it doesn't make sense to concentrate our efforts there when we're hurting in education," said Senator Hobson.
"In football terms, it's like recruiting more defensive players for your top ranked defense when your offense is the worst in the country. You'll never be a top ten team if you don't try to shore up your weaknesses. We'll never be a top 10 state if Governor Keating continues to whack away at education."
The Lexington legislator said state leaders should use the latest tax study not just as a tool for policy guidance, but to promote Oklahoma's economic development efforts.
"We should be touting our low tax ranking to business recruits across the country, instead of going after a few votes by shopping a big tax cut around that would kill education," said Senator Hobson.